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Just Made Aliyah? 

Here are some tips for setting up your home in Israel.

If you just made Aliyah, or are planning to move to Israel - congratulations! You’re not only moving to a new home but are starting a brand new life. Israel is a wonderful country with some great opportunities. If you make the initial adjustment, you can enjoy a special quality of life in one of the world’s most exciting countries!

There’s no doubt that Israel is a unique and amazing place to live, but it’s very different from North America and Northern Europe. Even if you grew up in a Jewish community, you’ll still experience a culture shock when you make Aliyah. If you previously visited Israel, you’ll have some idea of what to expect, but actually living and working in Israel is still a major change.

Read on for a simple guide to the basics of settling down in Israel and setting up your new home. We’ll help you to save time and money, reduce your stress levels, and avoid some of the basic pitfalls that catch out too many Olim Hadashim. Whether you’re renting a city apartment, looking for a friendly small town, or even a quiet rural community, we’ll give you the basic rundown. 

Affording a Home in Israel

Whether you’re renting or buying a home in Israel, there are a few key facts that you need to know. The first is that most Israelis live in apartments. This can be an adjustment for many Olim who grew up in houses and are used to more space and an upstairs and downstairs. Many Israeli apartment blocks were built quickly and cheaply during the last century as Israel faced the challenge of absorbing new immigrants. A lot of the older housing is basic and even utilitarian. 

There are plenty of modern housing developments, but the rooms tend to be small and prices are high. Israel is at least a decade into a massive housing crisis and is one of the world’s most expensive places to live. Young Olim will struggle to buy an apartment on an average salary. If you sold your property abroad, and are arriving in Israel with funds to buy a home, your prospects are better. 

As with most countries, there are regional variations in prices. Generally speaking, the further you move from the Center, the cheaper housing becomes. The problem is that employment opportunities and average salaries usually decrease as well. If you can find good employment, or work from home, life in rural Israel can be wonderful. 

The Basics of Maintaining a Home in Israel

When you’re ready to begin house hunting, there are two basic options, to use an agent or to search independently. If you’re renting or looking for a setup with roommates, there’s probably no need to use an agent. Facebook groups like Secret Tel Aviv, sites like Yad2, Homeless, and even Craigslist carry plenty of listings. If you’re planning to buy, you’re probably better off using an agent. 

Local knowledge and personal contacts are a big part of doing business in Israel. People here love to make introductions and referrals. Protekzia (patronage by fortuitous personal connections who offer assistance and protection) is still a part of life. There’s also a willingness to help Olim, and Israelis will frequently put themselves out to assist newcomers. When you’re looking for a new home, make sure everybody knows about it!

Five things you need to know when you set up home in Israel After Making Aliyah:

  1. Contracts
  2. Arnona
  3. Utilities
  4. Vad Beit
  5. Neighbors

Signing a Rental Contract for your Home

When you rent a house or apartment in Israel, your landlord will present you with a contract. It is a legally binding agreement that can impact your life in a big way. As with all contracts, the devil is in the details. Even if the contract is in English and ‘seems reasonable’ don’t sign it until it’s been reviewed by a lawyer. 

Pay particular attention to penalty clauses and the terms under which the owner can order you to vacate the apartment. If a clause isn’t necessary or reasonable, ask that it be removed from the contract. If the landlord objects, look for another apartment. Be very clear in your own mind about how and when the landlord can raise the rent, order you to leave, or decline to renew your contract. You also need to be clear about the landlord’s responsibility to make repairs - and your own ability to stand up for your rights as a tenant.

Arnona and Water Bills in Israel

Arnona is local taxes levied by the municipality or Eeryia. The bills are usually paid bi-monthly and include water rates. Charges vary from city to city and sometimes within cities. It’s important to factor Arnona costs into your housing budget. They can take a big bite out of your household income over the course of a year. You can pay Arnona by direct debit, or in person. Some municipalities offer a discount if you arrange a direct debit. Some Israeli landlords will pay the Arnona for you. This usually happens when a larger family apartment has been broken into sub-units or studio apartments. 

Arranging Utilities in Israel

Arranging utilities in Israel can be a real headache for Olim Hadashim. You’ll need to register with the electricity company, possibly a gas supplier, and then arrange all your telecommunication needs: Mobile phones, landlines, internet, and TV. If you have a TV, you’ll need a TV license (basically another tax). Before you can get all this sorted, you’ll need a bank account and a credit card. The best thing to do is to set aside a day for admin and ask an Israeli friend to help you navigate the bureaucracy and the call centers. 

What is the Vad Beit in Israel?

Vad Beit translates roughly as house committee, but it often refers to an individual. In communal apartment buildings, the Vad Beit is an informal tenants association that deals with administrative and maintenance matters, cleaning of lobbies and stairs and elevators, gardening, and any other issues that arise. The Vad Beit levies a monthly charge to cover all the basic requirements. Traditionally, one tenant in the building would take responsibility for all the chores and make a small profit in return. 

These days, Vad Beit may be an external company, which is not always a good deal for tenants. The old-style system (usually) encouraged good relations between neighbors and a greater sense of community. There would be someone keeping an eye on the elderly, dealing with problem neighbors, and generally arranging help and assistance. An old-style Vad Beit can be a big help for Olim Hadashim and it’s definitely worth getting to know your neighbors. 

Your New Neighbors in Israel

Aliyah - Neighbors in Israel

A major culture shock for Olim Hadashim can be noisy neighbors. Israel is a Middle Eastern country and there is a very different concept of public and personal space, and what constitutes considerate behavior. Israelis are noisy and not particularly self-conscious, if you live in a densely populated area you’ll soon know your neighbors’ business. 

If you're setting up a home after making aliyah, problems include loud music and TVs, barking dogs, persistent beeping of car horns, shouted conversations, builders with power tools, gardeners with noisy air blowers and cutters, and noisy teenagers. The problems increase during the warmer months when people spend more time outside. Israeli noise pollution and public nuisance laws are outdated and ineffective.

If people make unreasonable noise between the hours of 14:00 and 16:00 or between 23:00 and 07:00 you can call the police or the Moked (municipality patrol). They will respond, and often issue fines to noise polluters. The problem is that outside these hours, people are basically free to make as much noise as they like. They can make your life miserable and you have little in the way of legal recourse. If you want peace and quiet on a daily basis, choose your new neighborhood carefully!

Should I Ship my Furniture and Car to Israel?

Moving house involves a massive amount of hard work and personal organization. Moving countries is ten times more stressful, and involves major decisions. When you decide to make Aliyah, you’ll have to figure out what to do with your belongings. If you’re a single person, fresh out of college, and can probably fit most of your personal possessions in a few bags and boxes, making Aliyah is less of an upheaval. Plenty of young Olim Hadashim steps off the plane at Ben Gurion with their worldly goods crammed into a backpack and a couple of suitcases. 

If you’re married with kids, and you spent a couple of decades accumulating possessions, Aliyah is more problematic. You may own a couple of cars, furniture that you love, shelves of books, and expensive consumer durables. If you invested time, money, and effort into building a home in the US or Europe, a move can be unexpectedly painful. It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic you are about moving to Israel. 

Shipping your belongings to Israel is actually pretty simple and more affordable than many people realize. A specialist international moving company will send a team to your home to pack your furniture and household items - and even your car. They’ll store your boxes in a secure warehouse until you’re ready to receive them. The company will then arrange container shipping and send your load to Ashdod Port in Israel. 

Usually, your deal will include customs clearance and delivery to your new Israeli home. International shipping companies usually charge according to the volumetric weight of your shipment. Shop around, and don’t be afraid to negotiate. As an Oleh Hadash, you can import your household items and car without import duties. Household appliances can be quickly adapted for Israeli use (usually it’s nothing more complicated than changing a plug). 

Should I Buy New Furniture in Israel?

Generally speaking, furniture, consumer durables, and household items are more expensive in Israel. You may be able to save money (and certainly time) by shipping over your belongings when you make Aliyah. One issue to consider is that you may have to downsize. Israelis tend to live in apartments and rooms tend to be smaller. Plenty of family apartments are only 50 or 60 square meters in size, and that can include a balcony. 

Your furniture may not be a good fit for your new home, or you may prefer to rent a furnished or semi-furnished apartment, to begin with. IKEA has a presence in Israel and there are plenty of good local brands and companies. If you’re shopping locally it’s definitely possible to bargain when you buy furniture. There is also a thriving second-hand market and you can always find good quality bargains. 

Make Your Aliyah Easier With TCS!

Aliyah - Make it easy with TCS!

If you’re making Aliyah, one of your first priorities should be to get your phone and internet requirements organized. Everything else will be a lot easier the minute you have internet access and a working cell phone and landline. You can contact TCS before you fly to Israel and we’ll open an account and send you a new Israeli SIM. You can literally step off the plane at Ben Gurion airport and start making calls and going online. 

We’ll also install your home internet (high-speed broadband or fiber) and get you connected with a landline and a TV package with over 125 channels, including CNN and FOX. Your transition to a new life will be a lot smoother if you can go online or watch your favorite TV shows from Day One in Israel - especially if you have kids. 

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